Sunday, 31 January 2010

School Uniforms Should Be More Beautiful

Children are made saddest by  their appearance. The Observer reports that almost a fifth, of both sexes, were unhappy with how they looked.  We shouldn't be surprised.  Children spend much of daytime, throughout the year, in school uniform.

The outstanding characteristic of school uniform is that it is ugly.  It isn't meant to be ugly (is it?) but it is the result of criteria that would make anything ugly.  It must: not look like any other form of dress; it must be 'practical'; it must identify by colour; it must be cheap to buy and cheap to maintain; it must be 'smart'. And all these desirables draw on the lowest common denominator of opinion on how to achieve them. 

The criteria that might be used could be: it must draw on successful models for clothing for similar activities in the non-school world; it must be practical in being warm, without adornment, simple to wear, easy to clean; it must identify by consistency not colour - uniform means what it says, and colour should be natural and restrained, not unusual and chemically bright; it must be cheap in the sense of  accessible to family budgets, not  cheap in the sense of costing as little as possible considering that these clothes are worn much of the time, and quality in materials and making can be sacrificed only so far; 'smart' is not something to be obtained from distant echoes of high-maintenance dress (starching, ironing, polishing, pressing) with easy-care substitute materials.

Arguments that children in school should have uniforms are powerful and well-rehearsed but is there any reason why such uniforms should be so poor that they make children feel ugly?  This is what we wore as our day dresses at school (surprisingly it appeared at the Berlin Fashion Week); we came in all shapes and sizes and none of us felt ugly. We all had our hair tied back from our faces and above our collars, lisle stockings, flat laced shoes. No jewellery,  no make-up, short nails.  But we did feel like young women preparing for going out into the world; the only time we wore shirts was for games; we never ever wore ties or v-neck pullovers, (or cardigans).  Warmth was supplied by the uniform underclothing, but I won't go into that.

Of course this kind of dress is no longer what the world wears (though cf Berlin above) but school uniforms need to be rethought to make school children content with how they look for much of their youth.  

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Buying Power Isn't Just for Afghanistan and Northern Ireland

The Brown regime has been notable for how few by-elections have occurred.  This has been Party policy - every time there is a by-election Labour lose it (Scottish seats post Glasgow East don't count; they are notable for their high postal votes and disappearance of  the marked register).  Various measures to limit demands on MPs  - long breaks, short hours, leave to be absent etc., have been employed.  But best of all, the real winner, has been paying MPs who vacate their seats only at a general election tens of thousands of pounds of our money, tax free.

This tax free severance payment, some  6-12 months' of income from parliamentary position, is a major reason why Brown has not been ousted by a steady drip of retirements followed by lost by-elections.  Labour MPs know Brown will take Labour down with him, but some £50,000 to £100,000 each has kept them in place.  Just for starters; they'll all need their north of Watford local/regional  advisory position with expenses  reference from Brown's Party machine too.

Not Just a Walk Down the Garvaghy Road

Consociationalism is a very hard word -  if you can't spell it you're the biggest dunce in the world (or was that antidisestablishmentarianism?)

Northern Ireland is a power-sharing plus (to use an easier term) model of what the New Labour project hopes to turn the United Kingdom into: a social corporatist state with every minority represented and every minority able to feed in its concerns and views on forms of social organisation.  Not a democracy with a  single sociocultural,  political, or even economic consensus, and with a policy  manifestos  presented by multi-interest group parties, for which a majority of the electorate votes; but elites from subsets seeking accommodations to maintain themselves in power to administer the state in the interests first of elite-defined good, and then to sustain their minority group deference by distribution of reward.

In  Northern Ireland  the further objective of a united Ireland on the part of the external players - the New Labour administration, the southern Irish government, and the United States Democratic party and administration is, unfortunately for the project,  in serious conflict with the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, which is what matters most of all to the Unionists both in Ireland and in the incoming Conservative administration.   If the New Labour construct  collapses because the Unionists insist on blocking the 'path' to unification then even the sectarianism in one of the more sectarian parts of the UK is not strong enough to drive out pluralist democracy and firm allegiance to the sovereign state.  That would be very bad news for New Labour,  and even worse for Brown, whose last claim to anything is as arch-manipulator of sectarian accommodations.

Brown has threatened to with hold £8oo million, Mrs Clinton has stated there will be 'economic consequences' if judicial and police powers are kept in the hands of the UK state by Unionist defiance.  What is at stake is much more than Northern Ireland's Assembly arrangements.  It's the New Labour vision.  That's what all this stakeholding, and ethnic judicial systems and courts,  and the apparently wanton destruction by invalidation and criminalisation of many aspects of our indigenous culture is all about.

Unwittingly Telling the Truth

I've  often wondered what it must have been like in the 1930s, indeed in history classes I have been required to wonder what it was like.   An underlying thought is that it is such a very distant experience from today. All those regimes and empires breaking apart under the shifting of technological and economic change, all those long-suppressed cultural fractures re-opening, all those pre-enlightenment believers with their potted ideologies and vision that it is right to act as they have acted on their beliefs.

Blair made it all very close yesterday.  Elderly and obsessed, eyes bulging from his painted face,  hands waving in brownian gestures of frame, number, limitation, accusation and control, Blair listed proudly the wars he has instigated and fought and those yet to come in pursuit of his theory of the world and how it works.  Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq, soon - Iran.  He was ready with rebuttal even before any sane objection that his wars might be thought somewhat disparate in origin, in geography, and irrelevant to the United Kingdom: an interlinked, global imperative leaves nowhere, no-one and nothing beyond the scope of progressive governance.  Any rejection of the discipline of its institutions, at whatever level,  any intellectual or practical practice in opposition to its approach, is an attack upon the whole.  Certainly the institutions are at times rudimentary and must then be circumvented temporarily until more appropriate structures are built from ad hoc (or capital A capital H ad hoc, as he repeatedly stated) usages are set in place.

On he orated in that post-informational communication style -  y'know, erm, let me just say, before answering that I want you to think of this.......with only the 'key messages' in plainspeak: it was unpopular but it is right; it killed a lot of people, yes, so?;  Iran is my next war.

Chilcot and the commission members turned on his taps and out of his Blairmouth gushed a torrent of elderly, diseased, conviction in whose name he has killed and maimed horribly entire regions, countries, peoples.   Including our own.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Bad Dream

I thought that being in a supermarket wearing jamas was one of those classic nightmares that get interpreted by psychoanalysts.  I wouldn't even dream of going to Tescos in my night dress.  I wouldn't answer the main door in my night dress - but come to think of it, Cherie Blair did so there must be an inappropriate night dress-wearing culture going back some decades.

It's the opposite of going to bed in your vest, which was a significant cultural marker in my childhood.  The implications are extraordinary.  Some people no longer distinguish between night and day, insofar as dress is concerned anyway.  Their activity patterns are such that  it is ordinary for them to change their clothes only for occasional breaks in their everyday - counted as 24 hours - routine. 

Not even to have house dresses which they change when going out, and  change back into on their return, and  when there are visitors expected, or when people are coming in for dinner.  Just jamas - even out of doors.  I can't get over them wearing  bedroom slippers outside either.  Not their indoor shoes, which can pass as outdoor at a pinch, but slippers that they wear in bedrooms and bathrooms being traipsed around the public street.   Are their houses in such a state they are indistinguishable from the street outside?   Or the streets outside so well kept you could eat your dinner from them?

Well, it certainly gives a new lease of life and older meaning to dressing gowns. 

Hearts and Minds?

£500 million pledged to training Afghanis against other Afghanis.  Or will it be against our own soldiers?

Rainer Wendt, head of the  German Police Union (DPolG)is reported in the German press to have  said in the  daily Stuttgarter Nachrichten:

"We would already consider it a success if the future security personnel wouldn't bash people on the head, cut off the hands of thieves, and stone women....We are training fighters for the Taliban... We should be concerned that many of the Afghan police candidates don't even join the force after their training course. Instead, they go directly to the Taliban. They pay twice as much."

Brown Needs to Wind His Neck In on Pledging Billions in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan

'Following the failure of Mr Cowen and Mr Blair [sic!]to secure a deal between the parties, the pressure is now on DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness to decide by tomorrow whether to agree their own proposals or accept the governments’ draft ones.' .
 ...' if the parties could not agree a way forward by tomorrow, they [the leaders of the UK and Irish governments, ed.] would publish their own “specific” proposals for an agreement.
If in turn the British-Irish blueprint is rejected, it seems virtually certain that the Northern Executive and Assembly will collapse and Assembly elections will be called..... if there was no agreement, the £800 million Mr Brown has pledged to support the setting up of a Department of Justice would be withdrawn.' (see this morning's Irish Times).

Another enormous sum pledged by the Prime Minister of a country he has reduced to debt-ridden penury.  That's £8oo million for the transfer of UK state powers to a Northern Irish region partially governed by republican separatists.  To which is now to be added, insult to injury,  £500 million to a fund administered by a 'global' (or international as we used to say) non-democratic governance body to buy off the enemy UK troops have been sent to  fight  in Afghanistan (oh how we all sneered at the Italian government when they explained their fighting tactics included paying the enemy to lay off).  That makes £1.3 billion, which we have not got - to borrow a phrase - to do what?  Dismember the Union and fund enemy Taliban fighters. 

In Northern Ireland the United Kingdom  and Irish Republic  prime ministers  want to set a pre-election date in May for transferring policing and justice powers to the Northern Irish Executive – which is Sinn Féin’s key demand – yet their proposals are not yet fully detailed.  These are supposed to be proposals for addressing  such issues as: North-South  relations (surely the relations between a UK region and a foreign power are reserved expressly and permanently to the UK central government); dealing with the  sectarianism that plagues  Northern Ireland,  (sectarianism that plagues parts of Scotland and parts of north-western England too, so coping with sectarianism and its ugly political product could well be reserved to the central UK government for it is a multi-regional problem),  the status in the region of the Irish language (Irish is nice, like Welsh is nice; that looks like just a filler issue); and Parades (well parades are part of sectarianism,  being singled-out to raise the 'you don't want fighting on the streets again do you?' threats).   Talk of 'enhanced mechanisms' for 'addressing issues' is  garbage.  Labour wants to hand over state power to separatist movements in a UK region.

'During their press conference, Mr Brown described the proposals 10 times as “reasonable”'.  How unfortunate that they are without detail; still we do have Brown's assurance that 'reasonable' applies to them, whatever they may be. And that they are accompanied by an £800 million bung.

'“We look forward to receiving an update on progress from the First and Deputy First Ministers on Friday,” Mr Cowen and Mr Brown said in their joint statement.
“If it proves impossible for the parties to resolve the outstanding issues, we are prepared to bring forward  'our specific proposals at that point for wider debate and discussion.”

Go for it Northern Irish Unionists!  Hang in there refusing to be 'reasonable'.  As it's our money and our United Kingdom as well as yours, we are relying on you to force this living dead  Labour government to bring forward  their '...specific proposals at that point for wider debate and discussion.” '

Earlier yesterday, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, speaking in Irish [nice, as we noted, lovely language, the Welsh speak in Welsh  to make a point sometimes] said he was “very dissatisfied” with developments.  [well, he would be wouldn't he?] Martin McGuinness said Sinn Féin would “not be subject to a unionist veto or an Orange Order precondition”. [not so nice,  is that fighting talk, McGuinness?]
Peter Robinson said that issues of “life-and-death concern” were identified during the talks, and that they were “committed to ensure that devolution works in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland [it would also be nice to keep the interests of the Union as a whole in mind, Robinson] and will not accept any second-rate deal simply to get across the line to suit someone else’s deadline.”


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Brown Calls for Leadership and Courage in Northern Ireland

Proposals on the devolution of justice and policing powers to Northern Ireland's Assembly could be voted on by the beginning of March, ahead of a possible transfer of powers to the region from the United Kingdom central state at the beginning of May. Northern Irish party leaders have now been given 48 hours 'to try to hammer out a deal.' Gordon Brown threatened that:

“If we judge that insubstantial progress has been made we will publish our own proposals.” ('our' being  the British and Irish governments' proposals) for moving the process forward. It is astounding that the government of another state should associate itself with such remarks on the proposed organisation of the UK.

Sinn Féin too has been threatening (threatening is, of course, their preferred and historic stance, as is true for Brown, in fairness) serious consequences for the devolved administration without a swift transfer of law and order powers. Meanwhile the Northern Irish Unionists are unimpressed at Martin McGuinness 'venting his anger that the summit had failed to secure a settlement.' '...McGuinness, flanked by party colleagues including president Gerry Adams, said:

“I believe we have displayed extraordinary patience and commitment over the past 18 months as we sought to persuade the Democratic Unionist Party to be partners of progress.'  ('Partners of progress'? He'll be saying 'it is right' next.)

Mr Brown said: “The importance of these decisions for the future of Northern Ireland cannot be under-estimated. With leadership and courage they can be achieved” ( The Irish Times gives a fuller report )

The display of 'leadership and courage' by Brown over the last two days (and nights, oh the self-importance of keeping people up till the early hours) led serendipitously to Brown not facing the House of Commons this afternoon after the calamitous economic figures that were published yesterday.

One last mauling for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, before the electorate ends New Labour's constitutional vandalism, also implies that the opportunity for that vote will continue to be with held to the bitter end.

The Conservative and Unionist Party

 Labour policy has always been the eventual reunification of Ireland.  Which makes problems when it needs Northern Irish members' support in the House.  There is only one thing that will obtain that support - the preservation of the Union expressed through all and every means.  The Northern Irish will take an Ulster devolved region,  and all the money and power that goes with it; they'll give concessions to obtain an acceptable level of social peace, even smile at the leaders of the IRA, even vote to prevent defeat of a Labour administration in Westminster,  as long as the Union is upheld.

Upheld, when it comes to it, by force.  By the justice and policing systems that deliver that force.  They will not permit the dissolution of the Union by the transfer of such power  from the heart of the United Kingdom state to a devolved region.  How long would the Union last then?  It would be whoops, sorry, it turned out to be a game changer, you don't want civil unrest again do you, how about an arrangement with the South of Ireland so that you're attached to both countries?  After all, we're all in Europe now anyway - time to move on.

When Brown got his votes from the Unionist Northern Irish he got them by absolute commitment to no transfer of justice and police powers.  Brown and his tactics, of course, no strategy.  Now, at the end of his misbegotten premiership, the whole power-sharing, Labour sneak into Irish reunification is about to be simply abandoned by Irish Unionists and Conservative Westminster alike.  It doesn't suit.  The Conservative party is a Unionist party.

The Irish Times reports:

'The Taoiseach and British prime minister, according to well-placed sources, proposed there should be a pre-Westminster election date for devolving policing and justice powers to the Executive. This is the long-standing key demand of Sinn Féin.

Sources said the date could be early May. This could be [in] line  with Sinn Féin demands as the British general election is expected to be called for sometime later that month.'

The insistence on a pre-Westminster election date for the transfer of justice and policing powers points to the gulf between Labour policies for Northern Ireland and the achieving of their long term Irish unification goal, and Conservative policies and their proper concern for the preservation of the Union.  To become the prime minister of a dismembered (or disintegrating) United Kingdom - a Britain  of the countries and the regions as Labour calls it -   facing the European Union, particularly post-Lisbon, would severely weaken the Conservative policy of asserting constitutional independence and self-determined consent to acceptance  of EU laws and regulations.  

Monday, 25 January 2010

Forecasts, Indices, and Lies

Tomorrow a number of crucial data about the British economy are to be released.  It is well known and attested that economic performance has been going from bad to worse, in terms of GDP, employment, inflation, deficit, public debt, external accounts - you name it. So, how is the Leader  to mystify the voters so close to elections he wishes did not have to be called?

First, there will be the usual time warp, concentrating on the short/long term dichotomy: things have been bad but they are improving  fast, and will be alright in the long run (for those of us who are still alive). Alternatively,  sights will be concentrated on the short run and the green-shoots and tendrils of Spring (never mind what might come after).  Whichever or both are peddled, the recession is behind us - we the  victims of the global crisis.

Second, there will be (as there always is)  sparse, sporadic, erratic and fundamentally irrelevant information about things getting better in some special respect. The environment is improving (well, it would, in the middle of a recession). Life expectancy is increasing (it had better, considering  the funding that has been  sunk into health). Swine flu, the most blatant of the disaster scenarios but there are others that failed to take, has been defeated.

Third, arbitrary and largely irrelevant indicators in fields where we excel are going to be produced, and added up, weighted and biased to concoct a synthetic indicator which, as long as it does not include real performance indices such as GDP, employment, inflation, public debt, external accounts etc, is going to look good and, above all, is set to increase instead of declining towards collapse.  Something like a "Genuine Progress Index", preferably known as the GPI and even more desirably,  sponsored by the OECD. This would include such measurements as the value of voluntary work, unpaid housework and child care, the value of leisure time (lots of it is currently being enjoyed by the unemployed as well as its more regular enjoyment by  rentiers); spurious indices of economic security; the maintenance of stocks of natural resources; health, crime, educational attainments.  Anything to divert attention from the real economy.

These grossly misleading indicators, proffered as raw data or cooked statistics will be on your  table shortly.

There's Only One Job to Get on With Gordon

"The car is at the door, Prime Minister."

"Oh, I'm able to squeeze in Davos after all?"

"No, Prime Minister.  You need to call a general election."

"But all my friends are at Davos; they'll need to hear my view."

"Prime Minister, you have to call a general election.  If you win, you can go to Davos next year."

"Then there's the Budget."

"Alastair will do the Budget, Prime Minister,  if you don't call a general election."

"No, no.  He's just holding the fort.  I'm putting Ed in after the summer.  I'll do the Budget; perhaps you're right, next year in Davos."

"You need to call a general election before all of that, Prime Minister.  The car is at the door.  Please take your fingers from your ears, Prime Minister.  You must go to the Palace."

"Shan't.  And I can hear you perfectly well; this is communicative body language that I learn in my special classes on interpersonal presentation with wossername's friend."

"If you will not get into the car and go to the Palace, what are you going to do today Prime Minister?"

"I'm getting on with the job of surging to bring closure in Afghanistan.  I have taken this upon myself, as I said in an earlier press announcement when I called The London Conference before anyone could stop me."

"The meeting on Friday is being handled by David; the Foreign Office is quite on top of  having talks with other NATO countries' defence people and with the European Union High Representative."

"The European Union what?"

"Cathy Ashton, Prime Minister.  You shoveled her into post in preference to the UK  (sorry British) taking an economic portfolio in the EU as you wanted to handle any economics portfolio issues arising in the EU yourself.  Part of your 'visionary' global leadership thingy."

"Well, I'm getting on with financial and bank regulation jobs."

"The Governor of the Bank of England is already on it, Prime Minister.  You need to call a general election."

"This is not the time for a general election.  I've only had a little go.  It's not fair."

"Time to see the Head of State of the British People, Prime Minister.  Get in the car" 

Friday, 22 January 2010

If We Want to Fight Imperial Wars We Need the ICS

The Chilcot Inquiry is concerned with lessons to be drawn from the Iraq War.  Its chairman reminds us of this at the opening of every session.  The spectre that is solidifying before our horrified eyes is the New Labour policy of creating the imperial administrative structure needed to hold a conquered territory, a territoy that has been  gained from riding American policy coat tails as the United States pursues its own imperial imperatives.

The military witnesses stated plainly that if United Kingdom government policy is the use of force within our limited resources to gain and, by cleaving closely to the imperial United States, to leverage those limited military resources for geopolitical strategic advantage, then an imperial administrative class, with general organisational capacities as well as specific technical skills, must be developed to take over after the military has delivered up territory and people to our control.  It is not for the military to act as the occupying power.  Yes it must stay until the post-attack victors' administration is securely in place, but it is not designed to be an occupation force. Unsurprisingly the military speaks as it eats: we take the territory -  you, the government to which we answer, must provide the occupation administration.  This is inconvenient directness.

Any post-attack imperial administration should be multinational to conform to other New Labour,  first Europeanist but also globalist,  policies.  It was particularly beastly of the Germans and wholly like the French to stymie our stance and style by roundly refusing any  backing from Europe, and denying the provision of any globalist fig leaf from the United Nations either.  Out of pieta' for occupied Iraq some European states sent peace-keeping and rebuilding forces after the attack.  But the UK found itself with all the obligations of an occupying power under the Hague and Geneva conventions on acts of war but with no clear understanding of any kind with the United States on  occupying-force policy choice, its enforcement, or its financing.  And it must be understood that the UK is  responsible for what happened in US-occupied sectors in Iraq equally with US responsibility for what happened in UK-occupied sectors.  Responsibility without power -  terrific.  Responsibility without any imperial administration personnel or infrastructures - even more terrific.

New Labour tried to set up something ready for the implementation of their contemptible global impositions-by-slyly-co-opted-force projects. They took international and development aid, and non-governmental assistance quangos, and reconfigured this mish mash of under-funded left-overs from ex-colonial days to provide some kind of occupying power skeleton; worse, they drew on colonial occupation for models, particularly the Malayan Emergency which had been given an undeserved wash of success in the burning glow of the US Vietnam  disaster. 

What was needed was the wholesale revival of the Colonial Office or, better, the India Office and the ICS.

The United Kingdom paid the last of its Empire for its role in the Second World War.   Whatever we make of that, that is what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers chose to do.   And under both Labour and Conservative administrations our imperial administrations steadily withdrew, with greater and lesser conflict and success in creating stable indigenous administrations in the countries that we left.  The Conservatives laid out the better vision for what might be our late 20th century and 21st century role.  A nation state with peaceful relations and on good terms with neighbours and allies, rich but ready to help in need or emergency, a northern European Rolls-Royce state that would have   ended, was ending,  any internationalist socialist Labour Party dream, and a severe threat by its very example,  to those states living the realised socialist nightmare.  Whatever we want, greater or lesser integration with Europe, we cannot go on like this with obscured New Labour agendas perverting the form and purpose of major offices of state and misusing minor, underfunded systems designed for administrating the Windward Islands.   

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Unemployed is not the same as Out of Work

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when output falls,  for employment to fall less than output and, a fortiori, for employment to rise, productivity must fall.

We are told that unemployment is falling.  This can only be the case if : productivity is falling or workers are leaving the labour force.  Workers do this because they are ineligible foe unemployment benefits.  It is called the discouraged worker syndrome, the middle-aged inappropriately-skilled, the youth barred from entry to the labour market, the degeneration of working conditions and terms of service.

The numbers of people claiming benefits may have been reduced by various means: obstruction of claims by arbitrary status requirements, complexity of applications; false training schemes; debt-attracting tertiary sector study; wageless placements and 'internships'.  But the bitter truth is that the economy is contracting viciously and taking life chances down with it.

And all this in spite of sterling devaluation of a third, and massive tax-payer support for ailing companies and failing financial institutions.

Imagine if for thirteen years there had been concentration on building infrastructure, encouraging entrepreneurship, directing government and EU funding into research and development in universities and in science park exploitation and production of results, in lowering taxes and favouring the creation of an initiative-friendly business environment, in promoting traditional industries with emphasis on the continuing appeal of their product while updating their production processes and marketing.  On favouring industry and manufacture through tax regimes, regulation, and intervention to protect from destructive and unregulated international profit-seeking.

There are people who can turn this round, but Brown is not one of them.

Missing in Action

A.C. Pigou, King's 1896; Professor of Political  Eonomy in the University of Cambridge.

J.M. Keynes, King's 1902.

J.R.N. Stone, Kingsman; Director of the Department of Applied Economics, Professor of Finance and Accounting in the University of Cambridge.

J.E. Meade, Trinity; Professor of Economics in the University of Cambridge.

W.B. Reddaway, King's 1931; Director of the Department of Applied Economics; Professor of Political Economy in the University of Cambridge.

N. Kaldor, Kingsman;  Professor of Economics in the University of Cambridge.

W.A.H. Godley, Kingsman: Director of the Department of Applied Economics; Professor of Applied Economics in the University of Cambridge.

They, and so many of their pupils, could sort us out in no time.

And what have we got?  Balls from Oxford;  and a sometime member of the sometime Fourth International (rather than the Third International or Comintern)  from the University of Aberdeen.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Brown Will Never Go Away

The scorched earth policies pursued by the dying Labour regime have been prophesied widely, notably by Capitalists@Work.  As Brown looks about himself, satisfied with no growth, oppressive public and private debt, high inflation,  high levels of worklessness, growing inequality, and falling living standards to greet the incoming government, we would be foolish to think that his baleful glare will be turned away by the general election.

The last time a Labour government produced the state we are in the experience precipitated strikes across the board, but particularly among public sector employees.  Bert Turner's answer to his question Is Britain Really Strike Prone? was shown to be wrong.  Yes it is.

A  respectable argument could, and was, made that  in comparison with other  countries the British strike record was slightly better.  Except that what  Britain was prone to was striking for highly political purposes as well. It is the motivation for strike action and other, lower orders of disruption, that caused the proposals, both Labour - In Place of Strife,  and Conservative -  A Fair deal at Work,  caused the soul-searching on what was going wrong so markedly in Britain.  Quite simply, when it was recognised that the UK electorate was never again going to vote the openly socialist into power given the experienced success of one nation Conservatism,  the long marchers first base camp was in the trade unions.

The new government will not be faced just with the socioeconomic deadlands created by Brown in his defeat.  We must fear that it will face an active, malignant continuance of the Struggle from the socialist institutional heartlands of unionised public sector beneficiaries.

Last time, they struck too soon and struck at the Labour government, bringing it down.  This time they are waiting and preparing for the necessary misery (so clearly set out by the Governor of the Bank of England yesterday) to provide the grounds and the rhetoric for further scorching.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Ragu, or Bolognese Sauce

The suggestion that the English cannot cook ragu is nonsense.

Minced beef (best) 6 parts.
Minced pork (belly of) 3 parts.
Chicken livers, and heart (cleaned, chopped) up to 4.
Rigatino (salt, unsmoked, belly of pork)  finely chopped, 1 part.
A battuto  (ingredients finely chopped using a mezzaluna) of 1 large onion, half a head of peeled garlic,  parsley, celery, carrot.
Peeled, seeded,  drained, chopped tomatoes, (1 bottle or jar).
Tomato paste. (2 dessert spoons).
Olive oil,  3 tablespoons.
1 glass of brodo  (don't ask, you should have some from your previous boiled meats).
A large glass of Chianti (and one for the cook).
Salt,  ground black pepper, grated nutmeg.
Cast iron saucepan with close-fitting lid.

Brown your rigatino  in the olive oil.  Cook in it your battuto, till softened and the onions are translucent.  Put your meat in the pan and make sure it begins to brown.  Add the wine and cook fiercely to cause the wine to evaporate. Then add the glass of brodo and make that evaporate.  Add your tomatoes, tomato paste, and  salt and black pepper.  Cover your pan closely. Simmer for ages, turning it every 20 minutes, adding brodo by the spoonful as necessary.  At no time should the sauce be very liquid.

(Mr HG swears by having the sauce sticking a little in the pan.  I suspect this is opportunistic justification for lack of attention).
Add the raw, chopped chicken insides twenty minutes before you need the ragu, which will have been cooking all morning, and stir in thoroughly until assimilated.  Add your grated nutmeg to taste.   

Serve with any fresh, flat pasta, preferably tagliatelle, made with eggs and durum flour (how to make the sfoglia is for another day).

Present in a heated bowl with generous quantities of fresh parmesan and encourage each diner to add more parmesan on their serving.  This is no dish for the faint-hearted, or for budget dining.  It should be followed with roast meats, poultry, game, or joint, sformati , roast potatoes, mixed salad, cheese and pears, cream cake such as la torta della Nonna, or a crostata, and a long rest.

Wines: red, local, reliable (ie well-tested).

Monday, 18 January 2010

No Budget, Spoof Budget, or Call an Election Now

The bitter refusal to ask for a dissolution and have a general election is doing so much damage to an economy and a society floored by Brown's regime. Regardless of why the electorate is not being consulted on what it wants to do,  it is important to focus on the real terms of what  is caused by that obdurately denied consultation.

The Parliament expires at midnight on 10 May.  A Budget  must be prepared, presented, and voted upon before then. This year's budget is one of the most important in  more than half a century.

If we do not have a real budget what will happen?

There will be a 15 - 20% devaluation of the pound with respect to the euro.
A between 250 and 400  points increase in the price of credit default swaps on UK debt.
A significant down grade of UK credit rating by all agencies.
An even larger deficit (given the natural tendency of the tax base to shrink).
A resurgence of inflation.

All of which could lead to adverse further repercussions on employment and even more inflation.  Interest rates will have to rise and, in that way, pierce one or two current bubbles in house values and over-valued financial assets.

This time around we didn't get social strife.  But we have got gross levels of criminality and socially disturbed behaviour.  Next time?

By definition a Darling budget has a lifespan of between two weeks and two months.  A spoof budget with populist tendencies.  Its only virtue is  that it is there, rather than there being no budget; but it will buy time at a terrible price.  Should Labour still be in government, another budget will have to be produced in agreement with their coalition partners - they will not be in office alone.  Should the Conservatives come to power there will have to be a new budget.  There is no way in which a scenario where an election is not called before the next budget is due, and an orderly change-over implemented, as is normally the case in our democracy - can be anything other than wantonly destructive.

Gordon Brown has until the end of January to avoid a minor disaster,  and risks the deluge.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Failure of the Socialist Imagination

 The Brown regime is still fighting a class war.  Certainly it has put aside the inane antics of Crewe, hopes no doubt that they will be forgotten -  although Brown's conduct at Prime Minister's Questions hasn't helped.  The casus belli is the same but the tactics are better-generalled.  We are still to be divided into classes, and set one against the other,  but the Labour regime is now to be identified with the middle classes; Labour, our sword and shield.

Rosa Luxembourg remarked that in a class society there will be class conflict.  (There's a lot of this kind of obviousness about iconic heroes of socialism and communism's writing; as if they are an early exemplar of box-ticking: class? Tick.   consciousness?  Tick; capitalism? Tick; struggle? Tick; exploitation, workers, production, forward, overthrow, comrades and brothers, future, modern - an attendance register of ticks.  It doesn't add up to a row of beans but it leaves a good impression should you be that way inclined.) Be that as it may, the purpose of advanced capitalist democracy is to reconcile, ameliorate, please the most, most of the time, cope with discontinuities in the system that is the best we've got.   No-one ever claimed more than that for it, unlike the New Dawn, New Fascists (and old Fascists) lost in their psychoses of control.   Democracy and capitalism go hand in hand and they are supposed to, and often do,   have us all  rising with the tide of economic growth in an ocean of individualism, freedom and choice. They are not evolved  to engender a bitter struggle over the surplus of production (which we have not got, to borrow a phrase), to grind the faces of the poor, nor give power to the proletariat.  Marx never offered a blueprint for an alternative society; his study was capitalism. His epigones generated socialism by hegelian negation, not by creative imagination.

First Brown tells the poor that only Labour will continue to pay their welfare benefits (which they wish they were not on) and then assures the middle income earners that only Labour will pay their claims against tax (which they wish they did not have to make).  

In the class war Angels will be found  "on the side of the educated bourgeoisie."   As for Brown's Labour regime masquerading as the chosen representatives of modern social democracy,  they are  "sectaries of an outworn creed mumbling moss-grown demi-semi Fabian Marxism."

Thursday, 14 January 2010

This is No Time for a Leader

A rogue government is the greatest threat to democracies.  By their nature democracies are not coercive.   They are consensual and rely heavily upon political actors (and we are all to some degree political actors in democracies) behaving in the spirit of the rules.  Their success has come from their flexibility in adopting forms of government adapted to the circumstances of the mass electorate.  Democracy can express itself through a spectrum of governmental forms from high levels of central control and direction to widely dispersed power centres responsive at the  levels of the smallest communities and even of individuals. A government in time of war will be conceded very different powers from a peacetime government in a period of economic growth.  More or less the electorate chooses a government on the basis of a manifesto and the implementation of those policies operates under the constitution and the rule of law, with powers that are available for other circumstances in abeyance.

When an elected government  acts inappropriately to the country's circumstances, particularly when it has been elected on a manifesto achievable without a particularly large spectrum shift, formal and informal checks and balances start to function.  When a government then uses its electorally-supplied majority to remove those checks and balances, and to alter the constitution, we have a rogue.

The evidence for this process under the Blair and Brown administrations is well known - we watched Chilcot yesterday, on the evisceration of the senior civil service,  for instance.  But it  is the Labour justification for becoming a rogue that is interesting, not least  because that must form part of the Labour manifesto for the general election.

The electorate do not like the situation into which Labour has delivered them.  A depression more serious than anything most have experienced in their lifetimes and with no quick or pleasant means to end it; a felt widening of the gap between the well-to-do and the rest  and a perceived collapse in opportunity through merit and work; a large rise in insecurity both in the home and outside in the  normal pursuits of everyday life.  An awareness that the government have broken the rules yet are hard to hold to account because they have removed themselves from the reach of the electorate.  The knowledge that paypackets are compulsorily relieved of far too much money before they reach the employee's bank account.  The conviction that while banks are in debt to the electorate for trillions they bully small retail customers - the electorate - with what are effectively grotesquely out of proportion punishments for petty infractions and often bank inefficiencies.  The experience of high levels of inflation in those spending areas over which the electorate has direct control; which dovetails into the conviction that the government is telling lies about the cost of living and corrupting government statistics while the press often assists in the promulgation of untruths.  The conviction among the electorate  that the Labour administrations unleashed a mass of cheap workers into the country who lower the social wage, and lower individual wage rates and worsen working conditions.   Finally, the realisation that by their war-mongering Labour has killed a lot of servicemen and women,  because it war-mongers on the cheap, killed a lot of other people in the world, made the country dangerous at home, and pokes its nose into every aspect of our lives because now the people they have attacked hate us.

The first Labour justification for all this is that the Thatcher administrations set a precedent for stepping far along the spectrum  towards central control and authoritarianism.  This, of course, is the reason for the constant reference back to those governments, and for the instrumentalisation of Mrs Thatcher herself by both Blair and Brown.  The exploitation is multi-level: Labour pretends that there were no unusual circumstances facing the Conservative government when it was voted into power in 1979, so spectrum shifts without changes in circumstance  are acceptable  (when in fact there was Communist-led, threatened and eventually realised insurrection against the capitalist state from the trade union wing of the Labour party);  that the dying of the heavy industrial sector based in the north of the country was the fault of government shifting and not the product of exhausted natural resources and organisational and organised inefficiencies which drove out any hope of investment.

What was the Thatcher administration supposed to do? Permit the overthrow of market capitalism by effectively unemployed industrial workers from the North and Scotland?  Led by Communist agitators?  Just as Communism was collapsing in the Soviet Union under the weight of its own contradictions, cruelty corruption, and with its peoples in open revolt, particularly in its realised socialist colonies?  Continue to defy economic reality?

Another level to justifying Labour's rogue behaviour via previous Conservative governments is the assertion that during the Thatcher administrations the distributional effects of market capitalism were not being ameliorated sufficiently, particularly at a time of major economic and technical change.  In truth the IMF had intervened to limit the country's  living well beyond its means - we were simply poorer than Labour wanted to believe,  our economy less efficient, our insulation from international capitalism at an end.  The electorate knew it and rejected Labour and its destructive indebtedness that was leading to even greater depredation of sovereignty.

Rogue Labour knows this.  It is well aware that the Thatcher administrations were outstanding in coping with quite exceptional times.  It knows that many of today's electorate know this too, that they see the Thatcher years as a turning back from the immediately preceding lunacy of Labour's reaction to circumstances.  So rogue Labour feeds its authoritarian leader meme by appearing with  the figurehead, in her advancing years, pretending to an affectionate regard for an individual  true to an ideology  (even if misguided) and replacing what was a pragmatic, determined, consensual, governmental  response with a falsely implied individual ideological fervour, thus reinforcing their own democratically inappropriate notion of the Leader set apart, whose vision marks and determines policy without reference to electorate or manifesto.

In our political culture, in our democracy, the very word 'Leader' makes us jump.  Our democracy is built within expectations of dealing pragmatically with circumstances where acting together produces better results than acting alone.  Our democracy has no 'vision' other than its own persistence as a vehicle for expressing our wishes to the administrations we elect from time to time.  We do not like to have to find a Churchill, it means the world has gone bad.  We do not like to have to face down attacks upon our market capitalist economy, it means axe-grinders have perverted our socioeconomic structures to special interests and global movements inimical to our culture and country's content.

Rogue Labour's justification for what it has done to disable our democracy is, furthermore,  precisely a perversion which argues  that an irremediable globalisation of our circumstances  must be welcomed, embodied even, in our culture and in our democratic institutions and expectations.   Hence we must have a Leader equipped with the experience, the grasp, the vision and, most of all, the powers of our formerly consensual and diffuse democratic system.  So that moments may be seized, decisions taken, worlds saved. Any dismantling of democracy that we object to is but evidence of our lack of understanding of our 'new' situation and of our need for 'leadership'.  Any failure to display this bombastic,  soul-destroying,  inappropriate, self-seeking, disturbed leadership behaviour is presented, by false analogy and other forms of lying, as a disqualification for office.

The last thing our democracy needs is the rogue Labour vision of a  Leader with power drained from a debilitated, no longer effective body politic.   We need a Restoration  -  a long, painstaking, skilled  job.  Restoration does not have much use for leaders, but calls rather for all the virtues and values of our  democratic practice to be used in rebuilding its laws and constitution, and limiting the possibilities for future abuse.    

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Intelligence Community Declares "Not in Our Name"

Watching the Chilcot yesterday caused Angels to  shudder.  As the mists of battle cleared there arose from them the dreary spires of  the model for progressive post-democratic, global governance.  This time not Europe, but the United Nations in all its corruption and placemanship - the notion that it should be ignored by any self-respecting sovereign state not even entertained.  Saddam was not conforming to UN resolutions?  That gave us the legal and moral right to shock and awe Iraqi cities and infrastructure to smithereens and then land invade the life out of  the Iraqi people.  "A serious, credible threat to regional stability' ? Kill them. Prime Minister Blair is "an absolute believer in internationalism and the United Nations as a force for good in the world". (Campbell, yesterday).

The United Nations is about as much use to the modern world as Bretton Woods.

And after Fermanagh,  the  Tyrone spire.  It was right that the case for the invasion of Iraq should be 'intelligence based'.  The Foreign Office had it made clear to it that their input - historical, political, informed, specialised, assessing risk and gain for the United Kingdom -  was not required.  The case would be evidenced-based, factual, beyond dispute; in a word, 'settled'.

Then it was for the prime minister, indeed it was the essence of prime ministerial duty, to take political decisions based on undisputed facts; drawing on his world view, which he would formulate over weekends by reading books and phoning people up who might be able to help.

'Was any record  kept of this reading programme and of those consulted and what was said?'  Well, no.  But on Monday mornings Tony would tell Alastair all about it and present a brief note to his close circle  on what he wanted presented to the administration and, if deemed useful, to the rest of us at large.  More or less it was the rogue states, terrorism, proliferation of WMD world view.

Unfortunately the intelligence-based platform for action was no more robust than the global warming science-based platform.  The dossiers of ostensibly consolidated intelligence information were propaganda presented as evidence-based truth;  it irritated the intelligence community that it was put over their names just  as the climatologists who found themselves besmirched by the East Anglian propaganda were irritated.

At least in Copenhagen they failed to agree to attack China.


Botogol gives a fine account of attending the Chilcot Inquiry in the flesh.  And displays initiative in getting a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Unconvincing Labour

Try as I might I do not see that many of us have a great deal in common with unskilled manual labourers.  Unskilled manual labour takes up a great deal of my time but it is not the source of my income, nor the focus of my intellectual interest or concern - though if a job's worth doing - I can scrub  a stone staircase or  beat a carpet, polish a floor or vacuum the sofa, as well as the next man.

So the news that Mr Brown is rising in the esteem of unskilled manual labourers (cf the latest Populus poll) helps explain why his recent behaviour and pronouncements - they could hardly be graced with the word policies - have made him even more unattractive to Angels.

Even with teeth gritted and head averted from having to look at their Leader, imagining what Labour could offer to persuade me to vote for them is mine to do, for they are not being helpful. 

Reducing indirect taxation to lower the growth in inequality that has besmirched the Labour years?  They've just raised VAT and petrol duty.  And National Insurances rises are barely progressive.

Taking the lowest earners out of income tax altogether?  That's progressive, but Labour actually pulled lower and lower wage-levels into higher and higher tax bands.

Cutting Defence expenditure?  Labour went to war, is still at war.

Reducing unemployment?  The greatest of destroyers of social well being has increased every year to a disgraceful 3 million who are actually claiming unemployment benefits and another nearly 5 million economically inactive of working age on other kinds of payment.

A European-standard educational system?  Labour has just lopped the tertiary sector budget, the only educational sector that is of international standards, and the schools are not doing well for the least advantaged with 40% too unskilled to profit even from post-11 education. 

Concentrate the NHS on the things that happen to everyone, or go wrong for everyone - childbirth (men are just as involved), and eyes, teeth, creaking joints, and on preventative programmes, while facilitating us  all in insuring separately for the fancy stuff? Or go on pouring money into near-irrelevant treatments and research programmes.

Major housing programme?  Not just new ones but the refurbishment of older ones on the lines of the Birmingham refurbishments of entire terraces and city areas.  That would interfere with reinflating the housing bubble.

Labour say they're thinking about mutual and cooperative movements.  What a pity they did away with those founded long before Labour ever existed.

There are two difficulties in convincing Angels to vote Labour: the absolute denial Labour is in over what it has done in the last 13 years; and the absolute unattractiveness of these same policies they are offering now.   It's called persistence in sin, and it is unforgivable.

Aspiration: Gordon Brown Sucks

"Gordon is so impossible," says one senior figure,  "He wants to do everything from road-gritting in Dorset to body scanners at Heathrow. He is sucking the oxygen from the system."
reports Mary Riddell in today's Telegraph.

Everything that is except paint his own green house, do his own housework, and gardening, and shopping, and washing and ironing.   We might wish he spent more time as a normal person does cleaning up after himself and keeping his everyday life and surroundings in decent order rather than aspirating the life blood out of everyone in the country.  

Monday, 11 January 2010

Nick Drew opens the Seventh Seal

A Tarnished PM Foresees His Moral Death

I know that I shall lose the vote
Sometime in March, or May, or June
Those ranged against me laugh and gloat
Those on my side think me poltroon

My country is extremely cross
My countrymen despise my name
No likely end can spare me loss
Or flood of tears wash clean my shame

Nor law, nor sense of wrong and right
Nor moral compass did I heed
A sordid impulse of pure fright
Drove me to base and craven deed

I balance all, bring all to mind
I've dashed their hopes, betrayed their trust
‘Son of the Manse’ by all maligned
My reputation, turned to dust

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: How Brown Sees Himself

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of fate
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years finds
And shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Angels wondered if Nick Drew might be seized by the Muse and give us some more verses on the Prime Minister's state of mind.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Jonah Brown Threatens Gas Supplies

Gordon Brown said that:

"because of the cold snap we are also facing record levels of demand for gas.
National Grid has confirmed that it expects supplies to meet demand.

I can assure you: Supplies are not running out."

Cold weather in Norway put Britain’s gas network on alert today as supplies dropped from Ormen Lange, a giant Norwegian gasfield operated by Norske Shell, reports today's Times.  The gasfield was supposed to be immune to weather conditions and was developed specifically to supply gas to the UK.

Labour is a Coalition and Brown is Destroying its Core

It is a truism that our main political parties are coalitions, and that with a first past the post voting system we have to accept coalition members who are unattractive to other parts of the party.  At least we know the worst about a coalition before we vote and are not faced with coalition-formation after the election.  Not usually anyway, first past the post having the supreme advantage of producing working majorities.

There are different models, mental images, of a coalition political party.  The idea of a core surrounded by fairly stable coalition satellites and then, further out floating voters who are attracted by the policy stance of the central mass is popular.  Another is of a much less stable group of party factions (or cores) reacting to the presence of one another and, again, surrounded  by coalition satellites; but in this model the floating voters who potentially could be attracted are  more numerous, but the pull from the centre is much weaker while the forces generated between the multiple cores can even repel outer floaters.

Coalitions can limit core splitting or absorb alternative cores by the imposition of hierarchy within the party - the authoritarian response that provides control and certainty but limits attractiveness to potential coalition partners and even more to floaters.  If that is the party practice then a split in the core is an absolute disaster.

Or coalitions can recognise their multi-core and the complex effects this has upon support and have a much flatter party structure with conflict resolution by negotiation and discussion, which produces dynamic policies pragmatically responsive to events in the world. Splits in the core are part of life and the party is designed to cope with them and reconstitute the coalition. 

Inflexible, hierarchical authoritarian parties deny expression to central parts of their coalition and lose not just floating voters; they shed core coalition support without means, or with only rudimentary or ad hoc means, to reconstitute the coalition. 

Labour needs to recognise what is happening and stop pretending that Brown's leadership is just a personality problem of unattractiveness to floating voters that is recompensed by a solidification of its core vote.    

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Wondering about the Mandelson Defence of Brown

Peter Mandelson believes that Gordon brown is the best person to lead Labour into the general election.  No ifs, no buts, Mandelson's actions are as good as his words, for without him Brown would be long gone.


 Does he  want the Labour party to be the political arm of the union Unite?  He says Labour must represent the interests of all the people of the country, yet Unite's interests are only those of public sector employees and the few present, and many former,  employees of UK industry and manufacturing.  

Is he, then,  determined to make Brown hold still while we deliver his so well-deserved kicking?  To make Brown and Balls and the union Unite, and all the fellow-travelling long marchers receive their "nyet"  from the only source they have been unable to subvert, the mass of the electorate, albeit a kicker that only gets to act rarely. A calamitous object lesson in the end for Labour if it abandons social democracy for authoritarian statism and barely concealed socialist and internationalist tendencies.

Is there still something Brown can deliver for Europe and for global governance in the next few months that will otherwise be lost, or put at risk?  It would have to be a very short time scale because Labour is not going to win in 2010, not under Brown.  And Brown's announcement that he is seeking a five-year mandate suggests Brown will stay on even after defeat short of anything but a Conservative landslide.

Imagine Brown after the election, still Leader but with nothing to lose and still the political leader of a  Unite core political party arm.   We'd be back with the Who Runs Britain? confrontations of the Heath/Callaghan years.  (Wilson remains an enigma, so I don't count him in).

Does Mandelson want to ensure that even in defeat the Labour rump Opposition will be the least co-operative the Conservatives could face?   Does Mandelson see New Labour as a ruling faction only,  incompetent and under-resourced in Opposition?

Will the shredders be unable to work fast enough as the Labour regime exits and there is some dreadful corruption of our governance for which Brown must still be in place to be blamed?   After all, Brown could not replace Darling with Balls - his true darling ( even though Balls had cleared his desk and everything), and Darling must be drawing on more than merely personal inner strength in profiting from this week's letter - a simple letter from a couple of former ministers -  to set Labour policy to 'cuts the most severe for 20 years. '  Are there bodies in the Treasury that need to be properly attributed?

Whatever it is, Mandelson is preventing Brown's removal, and to the detriment of the current Labour party, and to the detriment of any serious social democratic party in our country.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The Disadvantages of Closed Examination Centres

Hundreds of thousands of students could 'potentially be disadvantaged' if bad weather affects the modular exams for AS and A-levels, and some  GCSE exams.

Malcolm Trobe, policy director at the Association of School and College Leaders [who he?  And what exactly is this particular quango?, ed.] said:

''There are concerns about disadvantaging youngsters that live in areas that are affected by severe weather conditions whereas youngsters that are not, where it is still fine, can get into school without any struggle and are advantaged over those that are affected.''  [and where was he taught to speak English? ed.]

Announcements on the BBC, who is our public service broadcaster, after all, that all examinations will be set back one month (insert date) and that otherwise all arrangements stand, should do the trick, Mr Trobe.   It is not  ''extremely difficult'' to move exams.  It is disadvantageous to the examinee if their examination centre is closed.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Brown Abandoned to the Labour Core Vote

The gentle push that Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon gave, in a single, mild-mannered letter, asking if the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party  would like to have a secret ballot on Brown's leadership, has had a notable response.  Major newspapers had running accounts and blogs as the story unfolded throughout the day; comment pieces poured out; the news for most of today has been dominated by what?  - a letter from two former Labour ministers (and yes, I do intend the adjective to precede Labour not ministers.  That debate has barely begun in the UK though it's well under way in the rest of Europe).

It is wrong to think that Patricia Hewitt and Mr Hoon do not enjoy considerable entree with the great and the good.  Not so much Islington dinner parties as Cambridge high tables and Masters' get togethers.  And this was no botched coup, no display of ignorance on how to topple a leader.  Where they are the in-crowd, toppling is a favourite and much enjoyed sport.  "You have the support of the College" from a smiling Master means support from an establishment of international and inter-temporal reach.  Consider your 'Yes, Minister'.

Brown does not belong in such a world, where else does his visceral loathing of what he calls toffs and tories come from?  Margaret Thatcher may have been denied honour by Oxford, but they did her the honour of organising to deny, which is just as good, if not better. 

Brown has been severely damaged by just a toe-in-the-water exercise.   A  statement has been made that he has been abandoned to the Labour 'core'.  Brown faces an electorate inviperito,  and we know now, without the slightest support from  the ruling classes of the centre left.

Labour 'Investment'

'British Gas said it could not immediately confirm that it had cut off some customers in line with Grid demands but said the problems were caused by transmission overload rather than the potential shortage of supplies ....
"If anything there is an oversupply of gas and certainly no shortage at this time. This [the current problem] is about moving it around the country," said a spokesman. (Guardian)

13 years of investment in UK infrastructure, missing because of Brown.  He invested in buying voters, but not in roads, railways, ports,  power grids, water supplies, flood control systems, housing, pensions; no wonder industry and manufacturing are in dire straits.

Enough with schools'n'hospitals.  Where's everyone supposed to go to work when they aren't ill and have finished school?

Brown Denies Referendums, Mr President

"I hope that the people of these two countries and their political leaders will, in keeping with the longstanding democratic traditions of Britain and the Netherlands, acknowledge that a referendum is a democratic way of making a decision,” said the President of Iceland where the referendum, on the bill to compensate Brown's payment of his clients' losses from their risky behaviour, is to be on 20 February.

Iceland is not unwilling to meet its financial obligations under European rules, as Brown is pretending with his threats,  it is deciding if it will meet Brown's excessive demands that all the risk losses should be compensated.

Brown is now so weakened by what Mandelson calls the 'initiative' to ballot his leadership it is doubtful the IMF and other Iceland supporters will lend themselves to his distasteful bullying.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

With One Vote Iceland Will be Free

The Iceland Prime Minister can either withdraw the bill that would pay back the taxpayers' money Brown squandered on cushioning his clients from running silly risks with their own and other people's money, or have a referendum on the bill's acceptance, which will reject the bill and lead to the government's resignation.  Or resign now.  Which would mean another left government bites the dust.  Greece, Spain, Portugal, UK, Austria - not many of the Left in the European Union, and none of them covered in financial glory.

Of course Iceland is not yet in the EU; and the popularity of its application to join, among its own citizens, is iffy.  And the United Kingdom government has been putting all the pressure it can on the European Union to refuse Iceland's application to join, if it doesn't pay Brown's clients' money back. 

Would that we could be in such a marvellous position - cause a Labour government to fall, refuse to pay money to people who lost when they took a risk, and be prevented from joining the European Union.  All of this with just one vote.

Better to Face the Election Soonest

The current leaked and openly-published letters and emails among Parliamentary Labour Party members are all signed:

Yours fraternally,     .........

As the Italians say (Italians always have the mot juste for  fighting, particularly internecine and with  knives) -  fratelli coltelli.

And it's not good news for Brown's international status,  no matter how self-awarded,  considered either pre- or post-election, any of this.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Brown Slapped With a Wet Fish by Iceland

Invoking the UK Terrorist laws against Iceland, a NATO ally, was one of the more disgraceful of Brown's actions when Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  The President of Iceland has now refused to sign a bill to recompense the UK taxpayer for the money Brown used to pay off his client state 'investors' .  Brown sought to avoid political unpopularity by transferring the risk of non-payment onto the long-suffering tax-paying UK population, and compensated those who thought there was such a thing as a free lunch and if there wasn't, Labour would bail them out anyway.  They were right in the latter.

Brown dumped Labour supporters' debt onto us all.  Icelanders will now vote in a referendum whether they agree with Brown that they should pay off  the compensation given to those who risked and lost.  I wonder if there is a betting market for what the Iceland referendum result will be.

A Rapacious Appetite for Self-Aggrandisement

The United States administration has the measure of Brown's determination to be associated with power.  What began as a discreet refusal to meet insistent and repeated requests for  unnecessary public appearances with President Obama, has developed into the public refutation by the United States administration of claims by Downing Street to have supplied intelligence information or to have any special status in measures being adopted by the US  in the Middle East.

The noted jonah effect that hovers around Brown like a miasma is one thing - and can possibly be regarded as a misfortune that leads to his avoidance - but untruths and false claims to initiatives and successes to the detriment of allies is now so serious it has begun to merit public slap-downs.

The meeting called for by Mr Brown, at the end of January, on Afghanistan, is another display of the saviour and world leader complex.  Downing Street has announced importantly that the French President and the German Chancellor  are 'expected', (President Obama is not).  A normal person might think such a meeting should be held at NATO with Defence ministers, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and various military, present;  and that it be convened by the United States.

At least the United States is showing the way in increasingly firmly dissociating from brownian displays of near-delusional self-importance. 

Monday, 4 January 2010

Political Polling and Political Prediction

Political polling was one of those areas of political study that failed to command my undergraduate attention.  It is a kellnerish area of study - ie it requires high levels of data handling skills and  niggly attention to detail, remote from political theory and, even more distressingly, immediate political events; its  objectivity was always being called into question which removed  its interest as a particularly valid external indicator of the effects of political choice and policies on voters; being such a thing would have made it fascinating, but as merely another political propaganda means of affecting voters' decisions, it wasn't worth the effort of mastering its arcane difficulties and subtleties.

So which is it: a boys' toy that keeps them entertained fiddling with  statistics and modes of comparison, and sample reliability and conformity that could be substituted with a well-informed guess; or a powerful predictor of voter behaviour that interacts with that behaviour.  That the answer might now be the latter (after technique refinements and the instigation of a professional rules-giving body)  is underpinned by the publication of political polls being prohibited, just before elections take place, in many democratic countries.

Political polls are only interesting when they are technically neutral, and most interesting when the questions asked are emotionally intelligent.   Emotionally intelligent questions are intrinsically part of truth-finding.  A true question requires a question that is capable of being answered; and a true answer requires maximum co-operation from the answerer.  To ask: "how will you vote at the next election?" is a question  incapable of  evincing a 'true' answer.  And the answer: "Labour", is not a 'true'  answer.

What is needed is a profile of a Labour voter, which is then matched or not onto  respondents by a series of much narrower and less loaded - culturally, historically, psychologically  etc., - questions; questions that are tailored carefully to the circumstances of the respondents.   Framing truth-seeking emotionally intelligent questions and evaluating the emotional intelligence of the answers is not yet highly developed in political polling.  A lot of what looks like neutral data-gathering and sophisticated adjustment and interpretation is still close to any informed, intuitive grab on what is being picked up from many and varied sources.

I think. But then I should have been paying more attention when I had the time and opportunity.   

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Boxing-in Brown

'The PM told the Andrew Marr Show he would not be "boxed in" by announcing a date now.' [for a general election. ed.] (BBC)

The current Parliament expires at midnight on 10 May 2010.   Nearly 80 Labour MPs have announced that they will not fight the next election; some 30 Conservative MPs have also done so, along with various Members belonging to other Parties.   No matter what special circumstances might arise or be conjured up by Mr Brown to permit the extension of the life of the Parliament by amending the Parliament Acts, it is hard to imagine that he could command a majority in the House.

Mr Brown is no Winston Churchill.  And we will not be at war with Germany in four months' time. Brown is already boxed in.

Should any attempt be made to maintain in existence the current Parliament, how will Brown command a majority - faced with all those backbench, demob-happy, Labour MPs? Many of whom loathe him and all he has done to their Party, and some of whom loathe him, more honourably, for what he has done to our country. Every vote would become a vote of confidence.  You only have to win once (well, twice: first the vote of substance and then the vote to confirm the defeat.)  Untenable.

Unless Brown intends a real coup d'etat and to attempt government without Parliament.  Even Angels doesn't believe that, not even before breakfast. 

So, sorry for not taking into account the effects of the expenses exposures, and for not considering the effects of the greatest turnover in MPs since the second World War, and for not listening to the assurances of blogosphere elders and betters that there will be a general election within constitutional time limits.

Thank Goodness the box is now so small, and shrinking by the moment.  We must hope there will be no intervention by the French - in Toledo or any other part of the European Union.

Want, Ignorance, Disease, Squalor and Idleness

When the share of wages is too low and the rate of taxation on wages is too high there is a deficit in aggregate demand that results in unemployment, and consequently low  educational provision, rising levels of poor health and lower provision for its treatment,  lack of housing and capacity to establish independence in life, and aimlessness accompanied by alienation.

That a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer should have failed to confront the Five Giants, and instead enslaved working people in debt, is disgraceful.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Striking at the Roots of the Crisis

Aggregate demand is not attention-grabbing stuff.  A decline in aggregate demand is, presumably, even less so. Inequality does little better.  Decline in the share of wages  - oh oh it's getting duller.  Add the effects of economic globalisation, and it could well be  all over for this post.  Except they are at the roots of the Crisis.

In America where it all started, (and in US intellectual-poodle Brownlandbritain), the policy response  to all of these  was to attempt  to meet their effects  with freely and inappropriately available credit; which  (not surprisingly to any market capitalist)  instead of creating productive  investment, created asset bubbles of remarkable size and pre-burst attractiveness.  Not just once, but over and over again.

Economic globalisation and, to some degree technological change-induced productivity gains, produced a decline in the wage-share in advanced  economies of ten full points - from 65% down to 55% of GDP (IMF).  Which generated huge and growing levels of inequality, unacceptable falls in aggregate demand... .

This is the real root of the crisis, not its financial manifestation  in 2007.  And the answer to it should never have been bundling up  liar loans granted to working and not working people inside better-looking loan packages, and spreading it all thinly about, eyes tight shut. And then beefing up your civilian control measures for the bubble-burst(s).  This is the response of economic and political boobies, and inequality deniers.  Without a shred of real moral or even political commitment to the intuitive political,  decent-behaviour-in-life agendas of most citizens in advanced market-capitalist democracies.

So what should have been, and now must, be done?

First off all competition must be enhanced; thus raising employment, raising the share of wages without even having to raise wages, so that the gap between output and potential output narrows. One of the proper functions of government is to unleash competition.  The sozialmarkt-Wirtschaft has this as a central tenet and it should have been, but was not, part of the New Labour agenda.

The burden of taxation must be reduced, particularly on wages, so as to raise the after-tax share of wages and enhance aggregate demand.

Participation in profits by employees, not just by shareholders and managers, must be promoted.  The timid notion of stakeholding by employees under New Labour was diluted and redirected to other categories - suppliers, consumers, local administrations, the environment - insofar as it was not dropped all together.

Government expenditure must be switched from transfers to investment.  Particularly public investment in infrastructures and research and development, including raising the population's life-skills.

Protectionism must be installed at the limits of state power.  Our government should be protectionist when facing international competition made unfair by the export subsidies implicit in artificially devalued currencies;  even convinced free-traders must respond with countervailing protectionism.

We must reject the pretence that there is global commonality of interest even while we accept increased global economic interaction.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Having Us for Lunch

Coming up:

Unprecedented unemployment, regardless of recovery, in every country.

A sputtering recovery; fits and starts; worse for old Europe and the United States, better for Emerging Countries.

Resumption of convergence in transition economies.

At least one high level political assassination in the developed world, and two in the emerging world.

Steady rise in energy prices contained only by continued slow growth.

Resumption of dollar decline, contrary to current trends.

Sovereign default, in Latvia to start with, with possible followers. one by one, not mass defaults.

Higher interest rates throughout or another bubble burst.

Return of inflationary pressure.

Intra-national inequality increases.

Social democratic agenda quietly withdrawn, and replaced by populism.

Sterling to be a shadow-euro with or without the blessing of the ECB.

Economic globalisation grows,  despite sprinkles of protectionism everywhere.

Champagne drinking at 4.30 in the afternoon becomes fashionable if not compulsory.

Re-Balancing Act

The fragility of the UK industrial and manufacturing base is underlined by the depth of the recession that continues to reign in the UK.  Without financial services we are very little.  Glancing at European once-equals but now leaders in exiting recession and growing again (the UK is still  shrinking) two factors are noticeable among the so much more successful  -  an extant, if uncomfortable, industrial and manufacturing base, and competent government.

The notion 'base' covers issues of dynamic complexity.  Physical plant, infrastructural support, and work-competent communities are not the product of command decision-taking.  They are organic and cumulative.  Once lost there is no way back by simple or quick measures.  And the loss of UK industry and manufacturing was particularly abrupt and final,  destructively far-reaching.  In part this was the result of well-rehearsed factors of lack of competitiveness, deliberate union-based sabotage, the exhaustion of the natural resources to be exploited profitably, and a government failure to seek the conservation and reform of less tangible but just as real resources  held within working communities.  The political damage to our entire culture of work and social patterning was bad enough, but the economic damage is of sowing-with-salt proportions.

This is not to say that there are not pockets of advanced, and small-scale manufacturing installed, particularly around the great universities in their science parks;  but none of this provides the employment and life-styles, the security of capacity to support ourselves, the self-determination and freedom from reliance on government provision that a mature capitalist democracy offers to its citizens.

Manufacturing industry must be set up in the United Kingdom all over again.  The unforgivable  failure under more than a dozen years of Labour government to use the resources available to facilitate the re-establishment of  a balanced economy, the ideological choice to use those resources to build a client state instead, has multiplied every aspect of disadvantage.  Incredibly it was the declared policy of New Labour to abandon middle-level technology manufacturing.  They set out to create an economy of the enabled and rich, and a serving class of state-dependent, poorly educated, and poor. Permanently cast in this mould under permanent progressive, global governance. The whole to be served up by a compelling message, an appropriately groomed media enterprise.

The 'news' that UK companies are reimporting manufacturing production due to poor quality standards delivered in manufacturing complexes abroad is broadcast by the BBC  and an inter-related network of industry and manufacturing media fronts, both freshly founded, and  taken over but paid for by Labour-allocated tax funded resources.  Look up the sources for these reports.   And then consider the complexities and time profile of re-establishing manufacturing, even at the levels of France or Germany, in the UK.